Jo-Ann Mort

Jo-Ann Mort writes frequently about Israel and the Palestinians for The American Prospect and elsewhere, including as a regular contributor at TPM Cafe. She is the co-author of Our Hearts Invented a Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today's Israel?

Recent Articles

State of the State

Driving on the four-lane highway past the cushy American-style Tel Aviv suburb of Ra'anana to the Jewish settlement of Ariel, there's a clear drop in the countryside from green trees to brown, rocky hilltops. This is the “Green Line,” the 1967 border. There are no checkpoints to mark contested land because the road was built explicitly for Jewish settlers who live in Ariel and the surrounding settlements to bypass neighboring Arab villages. Ariel is about 14 miles into the heart of the West Bank, surrounded by several smaller settlements, two robust, modern industrial zones (where mostly Palestinians work in the factories), and flourishing illegal outposts that were placed there to thicken the Jewish population between the Green Line and Ariel. Just as in the Gaza settlements that were evacuated this summer, other than the settlers themselves -- and Israeli soldiers sent to protect them -- few Israelis come here. When I visited in July with Dror Ettkes, from Peace Now's Settlement...

Off The Map

Road maps aren't always much help traveling to -- and through -- the West Bank, unless you can unlock the coding that will lead you in the proper direction. Driving on the main highway between Tel Aviv and the large settlement of Ariel, an unknowing driver could become confused. There's a fork in the highway where you can head off to Ra'anna, a well-heeled suburb in the heart of Israel, or continue on to Ariel, leading you 14 miles deep into the West Bank, counting from the “Green Line.” (The Green Line designates the 1967 borders between Israel and the Palestinians. In this case, it is literally a green line; driving through the hilly terrain, you move from green to brown, Israel to the occupied territories.) But there's nothing on the large highway to inform an uninformed driver that Ariel is in the West Bank and Ra'anna is not. Most Israelis don't travel to Ariel unless they live there or in one of the surrounding settlements. In fact, when it was established in 1978, few Israelis...

Turn Left

On a recent afternoon in Berlin, where I went to write an article about an exhibit of Israeli art at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder maneuvered a vote of no confidence to try to dissolve the government. So I was curious to know what my taxi driver thought about the political situation, and we talked while riding from the Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg to the Bauhaus Museum. She pointed out to me the spot along the canal that marks where Rosa Luxemburg's murdered body was dumped, as the canal flows among fancy apartment buildings and new glassy high-rises. I don't normally practice the fine journalistic art of asking taxi drivers their political opinions, but this time I hit pay dirt. My driver, Hannah Lehman, told me she'd worked as a teacher but then bought her own cab when she couldn't get a teaching job. As an activist in the 1970s and '80s, Lehman was in the “same circle of friends” as current German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Back then, they were fighting...

Elections After Arafat

The world may be watching for negotiations between Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Leader Abu Mazen. But a different set of negotiations recently inside Israel could signal that the peace process is heading in a slightly different direction. Israeli Histadrut chief Amir Peretz, who negotiated for two years with the current Israeli Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres to bring his tiny but critical faction back into the Labor Party fold last summer, had been fighting opposition within the Labor Party's ranks so that he can run as head of the Party in primaries scheduled for June 28. Opponents were trying to deny him on technicalities, but finally, on May 31, the Labor Party Central Committee ruled in his favor. As chairman of the Histadrut, Israel's trade union federation, Amir Peretz has the power to order a work stoppage that can nearly shut down the Israeli economy. But were he to win a race for Labor Party chief, the dovish socialist would also become the party's...

An Unsettling Delay

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision last week to postpone the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and four remote settlements in the West Bank highlighted just how high the stakes are for Israel. But it also showed the disconnect between many who live in the settlements and Israel's political and military establishment. Believe it or not, the official word from Israel's defense establishment is that the army and the politicians were unaware of the religious significance of their timing when they made the initial announcement to begin withdrawing on July 20. The planners were so focused on completing the process before the beginning of the school year, so that kids could get adjusted to new surroundings and to accommodating military needs, that they neglected to account for a holiday (and the three-week mourning period that precedes it). The holiday is obscure to many -- if not most -- Israelis and, presumably, to most American Jews. But it holds tremendous significance for the...

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